Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna management - a decade of failure

Posted on 21 May 2022

WWF statement in response to the 26th session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)
The 26th session of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) ended yesterday, leaving the region’s yellowfin tuna increasingly in peril. WWF is profoundly disappointed by the commission’s continued failure to end overfishing of the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna, which supports one of the world's most valuable fisheries and the livelihoods of thousands of local communities.

“Member states have exhibited reckless disregard for the advice of IOTC Scientific Committee by failing to adopt science-based catch limits to save the overfished yellowfin tuna stock in the Indian Ocean from collapse,” said Umair Shahid, WWF Indian Ocean Tuna Lead.

“For nearly a decade, the commission has failed in its responsibility to sustainably manage yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean. In the face of such management failure, we urge retailers, consumers, and fishing companies to walk away from sourcing the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna.

“WWF is alarmed and disappointed at the blocking tactics of some countries, resulting in long-term risks to ocean health and the millions of people across the Indian Ocean depending on yellowfin tuna for their livelihood and food security,” said Shahid.

The IOTC Scientific Committee found that increasing catches in recent years have substantially increased the pressure on the already overfished Indian Ocean stock. In 2020, the yellowfin tuna catch in the Indian Ocean exceeded sustainable levels by 32%, driving continued declines in the stock. 

WWF welcomes the IOTC decision to investigate the impacts of climate change on tuna stocks, considering the impact that the geographical redistribution of fish stocks is already having on marine habitats and local communities.

Contact: Umair Shahid, Indian Ocean Tuna Lead, WWF-Mozambique (
Notes for editors:
[1] In 2018, the end value of Indian Ocean yellowfin was more than US$4 billion, making it one of the world’s most valuable fisheries, and the dock value—or the amount paid to fishers—was more than US$1.5 billion. Source: Pew Charitable Trusts (2020) Netting Billions 2020: A Global Tuna Valuation.
[2] The latest findings and recommendations of the IOTC Scientific Committee are available here.
Yellowfin Tuna
© Brian J. Skerry National Geographic Stock WWF